All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has included four new faces in the wider training group named to prepare for next month’s three-Test series against England.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has named a 35-strong wider training group to prepare for next month’s home Test series against England.
Four newcomers have been included in the squad: hookers Nathan Harris and Liam Coltman, lock Patrick Tuipulotu and centre Malakai Fekitoa.
Three players return to the wider training group – Victor Vito, Jerome Kaino and Colin Slade.
Crusaders lock Luke Romano is missing, ruled out of New Zealand’s three home Tests after breaking his ankle in the second half of the Crusader’s 57-29 Super Rugby win over the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Sunday.
Also missing from the wider training group through injury are fullback/wing Charles Piutau with a knee injury and midfield back Francis Saili (ankle).
Training camps will be held in Christchurch from May 18-20 and Wellington from May 25-27, with the 31-man squad for the England series named in Auckland on June 1.
Hansen said the two camps would once again form a massive part of the team’s preparations for the Steinlager Series against England.
“With players coming from five different Super Rugby teams, it’s important that we get aligned on our game plans and skill sets,” he said.
“The challenge the English bring means we will need to be at our very best as quickly as possible.”
Hansen said the camps give All Blacks management time to meet and learn about some of the younger players who have been named in greater detail.
He said the number of players attending the camps is limited to 35 so, as usual, there are several players the All Blacks management already knew about who would not be attending.
The All Blacks play England at Eden Park in Auckland on June 7 and at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin a week later, with the final Test at Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium on June 21.
All Blacks training squad:
Forwards: Keven Mealamu, Nathan Harris, Dane Coles, Liam Coltman, Charlie Faumuina, Tony Woodcock, Ben Franks, Wyatt Crockett, Owen Franks, Patrick Tuipulotu, Brodie Retallick, Jeremy Thrush, Dominic Bird, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Steven Luatua, Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Victor Vito, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Luke Whitelock.
Backs: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Ryan Crotty, Malakai Fekitoa, Cory Jane, Julian Savea, Israel Dagg, Ben Smith.
Thrush will attend the Wellington camp only, while Luke Whitelock will attend the Christchurch camp.